Opposition continues to build on the proposed use of biosolids to improve pasture on the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch near Chase.
Biosolids are a mixture of treated sewage waste, wood chippings and soil or sand; applying them to land is hoped to improve growing conditions.
An initial meeting held by Arrow Transportation, the company that will be transporting and applying the biosolids, prompted Turtle Valley residents to organize their own public meeting, where it was decided the group would be more visible in their opposition.
“We had about 60 residents attend, and support from local First Nations as well. We have organized to have banners, bumper stickers and pamphlets produced to spread through the community, and we discussed as a group our main concerns about the whole issue,” says Connie Seaward, who is taking a leading role in the community’s opposition to biosolids.
Seaward says the biggest concern within the community is the use on a hill over Chum Lake and near rivers that run into Shuswap Lake.
“We had brought up concerns to Arrow about the site being on a fairly steep hill, and the possibility for runoff from the hill,” Seaward says. “We were told it is common to apply biosolids on steep pitches when reclaiming landfills, but there was no example on actual agricultural land.”
Seaward notes that Arrow representatives told the community they replicated scenarios in a laboratory and had no failures during the tests.
The other main concern brought up during the meeting was the presence of additional chemicals in biosolids, such as metals or pharmaceuticals, and a lack of publicly-available tests of the material that will be used in Turtle Valley.
“We asked them, if they are so sure about the safety of biosolids, then why not put the community at ease and do testing and show us the results,” Seaward says.
Arrow has confirmed the biosolids which will be used in Turtle Valley are ‘class B’ biosolids – meaning they are not as heavily processed. According to the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association: “in general, there are buffer requirements, public access and crop harvesting restrictions for virtually all forms of Class B biosolids,” and they are “treated but still containing detectible levels of pathogens.”
Class B biosolids are allowed to be spread on agricultural land in B.C. under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, though are more heavily regulated including restrictions on being applied near watersheds and sources of drinking water.